January 25, 2017 / 11:29 PM / 3 years ago

Exclusive: Trade show operator Emerald Expositions mulls $2 billion sale: sources

(Reuters) - Emerald Expositions LLC, the largest operator of business-to-business trade shows in the United States, is exploring a sale that could value the company at close to $2 billion, including debt, people familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

A deal for Emerald at such a price would underscore the value that business executives place on face-to-face meetings and networking, despite the advent of electronic communications such as video conferencing and instant messaging.

Private equity firm Onex Corp (ONEX.TO) has hired Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) to run an auction for Emerald, the people said. Onex may pursue an initial public offering of Emerald if it is not satisfied with the acquisition offers it receives, the people added.

Emerald has roughly $160 million in 12-month earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, the people said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the details are confidential. Bank of America and Onex did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Emerald declined comment.

San Juan Capistrano, California-based Emerald’s nearly 50 trade shows span industries that include jewelry, apparel, healthcare and military. It runs 30 of the top 250 trade shows in the United States, according to the company’s website.

Onex acquired Emerald from information and measurement company Nielsen Holdings PLC (NLSN.N) for $950 million in 2013, when it operated under the name Nielsen Expositions.

Under Onex’s ownership, Emerald has made a number of acquisitions, including its acquisition of George Little Management LLC for $335 million, which closed in 2014. George Little’s trade shows include Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida, and the National Stationary Show in New York.

There has been demand for trade show businesses in recent years. In 2014, British communications and events company UBM Plc UBM.L bought Advanstar Communications Inc, best known for its semi-annual Magic fashion trade show in Las Vegas, for $972 million.

Reporting by Lauren Hirsch in New York and Liana Baker in San Francisco, editing by G Crosse

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